Anne de Tinguy (dir.)

Looking into Eurasia : the year in politics provides some keys to understand the events and phenomena that have left their imprint on a region that has undergone major mutation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991: the post-soviet space. With a cross-cutting approach that is no way claims to be exhaustive, this study seeks to identify the key drivers, the regional dynamics and the underlying issues at stake

Observatoire politique de l’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes de Sciences Po

Amérique latine - L’Année politique is a publication by CERI-Sciences Po’s Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean (OPALC). The study extends the work presented on the Observatory’s website (www.sciencespo.fr/opalc) by offering tools for understanding a continent that is in the grip of deep transformations.

One of the most striking phenomena of China’s recent history is the singular life trajectory of the generation born in large metropolises between the end of the 1940s and the early 1950s. After having endured with full force their country’s upheavals and ruptures after 1949, the people of this generation occupy dominant positions in most sectors of social life today. Yet despite its importance, the history of this generation—who contributed to build what China is today—has not triggered much academic research. The seven life stories presented in this study provide information and a testimony that help understand how these people elaborate a discourse on their personal experience. Analysing this discourse makes it possible to grasp the connections between individual life paths and events as well as social determinations.

Observatoire politique de l’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes de Sciences Po

Amérique latine - L’Année politique 2017 est une publication de l’Observatoire politique de l’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes (Opalc) du CERI-Sciences Po. Il prolonge la démarche du site www.sciencespo.fr/opalc en offrant des clés de compréhension d’un continent en proie à des transformations profondes.

Elections have been trivialized in Iran. They allow for the expression of diversity, in particular ethnical and denominational, of historical regional identities, and prove the growing professionalization of political life. Paradoxically, such professionalization withdraws the Republic away into the levels of family, parenthood, autochthony, and even neighborhoods or devotional sociability, which are all institutions that instill a feeling of proximity, solidarity, communion; close to the notion of asabiyat. As the saying goes, the Islamic Republic has become a « parentocracy » (tâyefehsâlâri). The country’s industrial development isn’t at odds with such ponderousness since it lies on a web of very small family businesses. The analysis of the 2016 legislative elections in four wards reveals how important the issue of property is in political life, indivisible as it is of the various particularistic consciences. The connections with notables are still there, revealing lines of continuity with the old regime as well as longstanding agrarian conflicts that have not been erased by the Revolution and that are being kept alive through contemporary elections.

Laetitia Bucaille

Today, the creation of a Palestinian state appears to be a distant possibility: the international community rejected to manage the issue, and the leadership in these territories weakened because of its divisions, revealing their inability to advance. Both the political and the territorial partition between the Gaza strip, governed by the Hamas and the West Bank, under Palestinian authority in line with Fatah, reveal a profound crisis that questions the very contours of Palestinian politics. It also shows that Hamas’ integration in the political game made it impossible to pursue the security subcontacting system. Maintaining the system avoids reconstructing the Palestinian political community, and makes it difficult to develop a strategy that moves towards sovereignty. Since October 2015, the popular and pacific resistance project has been shelved by the return of the violence against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian leadership counts on internationalization of the cause, which has shown mediocre results. Will the replacement of Mahmoud Abbas by his competitors permit to leave the rut?

Youth delinquency has been a hot topic in Russian society for many years. Numerous associations, NGOs and international organizations have raised public awareness of the problem and have encouraged the government to place judicial reform on its agenda. However, debate over how to apply it, the various possible models and how to structure the relationship between social and judicial institutions has been limited. Discussion has instead focused on the relative priorities to be given to the interests of children versus those of the family, so-called “traditional” versus “liberal” values, and the extent to which the State should interfere in the private lives of Russian citizens. Discussion of the actual situation of children at risk and the concrete problems posed by reform have been overshadowed by rumors, encouraged by a discourse of fear in an increasingly violent society that tend to distort the real problems. Additionally, implementation of international norms and judicial reform has been largely blocked by the patriotic agenda of the State.

Renaud Egreteau

In March 2011, the transfer of power from the junta of general Than Shwe to the quasi-civil regime of Thein Sein was a time of astonishing political liberalization in Burma. This was evidenced specifically in the re-emergence of parliamentary politics, the return to prominence of Aung San Suu Kyi elected deputy in 2012 and by the shaping of new political opportunities for the population and civil society. Yet, the trajectory of the transition has been chiefly framed by the Burmese military’s internal dynamics. The army has indeed directed the process from the start and is now seeking to redefine its policy influence. While bestowing upon civilians a larger role in public and state affairs, the army has secured a wide range of constitutional prerogatives. The ethnic issue, however, remains unresolved despite the signature of several ceasefires and the creation of local parliaments. Besides, the flurry of foreign investments and international aid brought in by the political opening and the end of international sanctions appears increasingly problematic given the traditional role played in Burma by political patronage, the personification of power and the oligarchization of the economy.

Françoise Daucé

Collective mobilizations in post-Soviet Russia constitute an enigma for Western political sociology due to their numerical weakness and their incapacity to strengthen democratic practices in the country. This perplexity can be explained by the unsuitability of the research tools used for their study. Academic research on social mobilization has long been based primarily on postulates concerning the modernization of social movements in a economically and politically liberal context. Western and Russian leaders involved in the transition process demonstrated a will to foster the constitution of organizations independent from the State and the creation of a civil society as an opposition force. In the early 90’s, the practices of voluntary organizations in Russia became closer to Western ones. Notions such as “associative entrepreneurship”, “professionalization” or “frustration” were shared by Russian movements. However, later evolutions showed the unsuitability of these concepts to understanding the full complexity of these movements. That is why this issue of “Research in question” aims to suggest new theoretical perspectives for studying associations in Russia. These are at the crossroads of various grammars, where civic and liberal principles are combined with domestic and patriotic preoccupations. This complexity, which resists a purely liberal vision of social organizations, draws convergent criticisms against their action. In order to investigate this complexity of practices as well as criticisms, the tools produced by a pragmatic and multiculturalist sociology are useful to show the diversity of social and political bonds that link militants in contemporary Russia.

Renéo Lukic et Jean-François Morel

In contrast to most of Eastern and Central European countries that underwent their post-communist transition peacefully, Croatia had to undergo its transition during wartime. The outbreak of the Serbo-Croatian war in Spring 1991 forced Croatia to build rapidly an army to protect its territory. However, at this time, Croatia was an emerging democracy and after the European Community recognised its independence on January 15, 1992, the parliamentary institutions were unable to exert their authority over the Croatian army (Hrvatska vojska, HV). The Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, and the political party he presided, the HDZ, dominated the HV by way of political penetration. Tudjman, who led Croatia to independence, benefited from a triple legitimacy (political, constitutional and charismatic) that allowed him to exert his power over the HV, much the same as the legitimacy Josip Broz-Tito enjoyed over the Yugoslav National Army in Communist Yugoslavia. The result is that the civil-military regime in Croatia after 1990 suffered from a democratic deficit. After the death of President Franjo Tudjman in December 1999 and the change of majority in the January-February 2000 elections, the new Croatian leadership, particularly President Stjepan Mesic, tried to establish democratic control over the armed forces. However, this aim clashed with the opposition of the Ministry of Defense and of numerous officers still committed to the HDZ. For these reasons, a democratic civil-military regime in Croatia is not yet a reality. However, Croatia has made some progress toward the establishment of a democratic civil-military regime. By trying to join some international organizations (NATO), or by being compelled to cooperate with others (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY), Croatia is now in the process of interiorizing the norms concerning the civilian and democratic control of the armed forces upon which these organizations are based. Being a member of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), and wishing to join as soon as possible NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP), Croatia is obliged to move in this direction.

Anastassios Anastassiadis

This article addresses the sensitive question of Church-State relations in Greece. Recent studies have suggested that the Greek Church’s discourse was plainly incompatible with modern conceptions of liberal democracy. Populism and nationalism have been the two theoretical concepts used in relation with the Church. Discourse analysis based on public declarations of Church officials has been the main methodological tool. The Greek identity cards’ crisis of the nineties has been its testing ground. Through an analysis of this “crisis” this article intends to show that these methods can offer only very limited perspectives of understanding the process for two main reasons. First, they show little interest for sociological analysis and especially for the internal functioning of the Church. Second, discourses are one outcome of the actors’ strategies but have to be deciphered and not taken for granted. Analysts disregard one of the main presuppositions of semantics theory: discourses are produced within a specific socio-historical context and according to certain prefabricated schemes. This dual pattern of production allows for continuity as well as for change. Thus, this article also argues that a Church¹s conservative discourse may be closely related to the efforts of certain actors within this institution to renovate it. While refuting the “clash of civilizations” thesis, this article finally intends to suggest that the renewed interest for religion in general and orthodoxy in particular due to this thesis should be put to use by researchers in order to acquire new and more comprehensive socio-historical accounts of the Greek Church.

Myriam Désert

What are the roots of the informal sector and what effects does it have? Is it a blessing or a curse? Changes in post-Soviet Russia contribute new food for thought to a debate that had previously been nourished primarily by considerations on the situation in developing countries. In Russia can be observed processes of formalization - and “deformalization” – of the rules governing not only the practices of economic actors, but also in the rarified distribution of public services publics. The analysis of actual informal practices feeds thinking about the relations between economic and political changes: what impact do they have in setting up a market economy and the rule of law, and in the reconfiguration of both the economic and social arena? An investigation into the way Russian academic circles and social actors view the informal sector sheds light on the various behavioral determinant: reaction to the economic context, cultural roots, social beliefs, and so on. The case of Russia illustrates how the informal sector is not only a mode of action that circumvents legal guidelines, but also a mode of sociability that rejects anonymous social relations. It helps examine ways to reinject the social aspect into economics

A rather marginal theme in Eastern European studies before the end of communism, ethnic politics and minority policies in Central and South-East Europe have given birth to a very rich body of literature in the 1990s. Some analyses have been influenced by the so-called “transitology” paradigm; others have borrowed from ethnic conflict studies. In both cases, though, ethnocultural diversity has mostly been treated in a normative way and portrayed as an obstacle to democratization. As for ethnic parties, they have alternatively been presented as conducive to better political participation and integration for the minorities (in a multiculturalist perspective) or as a threat to state stability and to democracy. Regardless of these cleavages, most research on ethnic identifications and on their mobilization in politics has been grounded upon substantial definitions of ethnic “groups” and has reified differences between “generalist” and “ethnic” parties. The present comparison between the trajectory of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MFR, which represents the interests of the Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria) and that of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR, representing the Hungarian population) departs from these approaches in two ways. First, it emphasizes the centrality of the sociology of collective action to understanding the politicization of ethnicity, while insisting on the need to trace the particular historical processes through which ethnicity has been constructed and politicized in every single case. Second, attention is brought to the role the social imaginary plays in shaping the strategies of social and political actors. To put it otherwise, we argue that identities are not exogenous to politicization processes; they are redefined, renegotiated and reappropriated as social actors invest the political field. “Ethnic parties” are in urgent need of deexoticization: Like most parties, they cannot elude the traditional dilemmas of political representation, in particular the need to be perceived as both responsive and accountable.

Post-Soviet Azerbaijan is the theater of an Islamic revival in the public sphere, a direct consequence of exiting from the empire and achieving independence, which involved the rehabilitation of religion, even the integration of Islam in a new national identitarian policy. Azerbaijan stands out from the rest of the former USSR by the fact that it is the most secularized Muslim country due to its early entrance into Russia’s bosom and the fact that it was long the ground for an ideological clash between the Shiite Persian Empires and the Sunni Ottoman Empire. It is through the convergence of internal factors – a preserved Islam despite the anti-religious Soviet policy – and external factors – the influence of neighboring countries, Turkey, Iran and the Arab world – that Azerbaijani Islam has been reconfigured since the end of the communist era. Eager to preserve the country’s secularity – the pride of the elites – and to ensure that the religious revival does not turn into a source of tension between the two essential components of its population (Shiites and Sunnis), the state has – with difficulty and sometimes a lack of subtlety – set up a religious policy that is far from receiving general approval. However, even if its handling of Islam is disputed, the Azerbaijan government controls the religious phenomenon through a policy that alternates between tolerance and repression.

Nicolas Revise

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s Prime Minister, is a man of superlatives: the billionaire telecommunications tycoon is the only elected Thai head of government to have managed to get through an entire legislative term before being triumphantly reelected to a second mandate. His party, Thai Rak Thai (“Thais Love Thais”), rules with an overwhelming majority. Having rose to power in the wake of the 1997 Asian crisis and the promulgation of Thailand’s democratic Constitution the same year, Thaksin exemplifies the country’s recent history: he is heir to the authoritarian military regimes of the 1960-1970 and the product of a political and economic liberalization that brought businessmen transformed into professional politicians to power. But whether the “Thaksin system” – a blend of authoritarianism and liberalism – has put the brakes on twenty-five years of political democratization or if he embodies a “Thai way” to democracy, the Prime Minister cannot rule to please himself: he is faced with a dynamic, complex and organized civil society that has already proven in at least three different instances its striking talent for political mobilization.

Philippe Létrillart

Alongside the socialist society that Cuba is in the process of constructing, an unofficial “civil society” is actually taking shape, made up for the most part of dissident movements. The Cuban Catholic Church, the only non-Castrist institution in existence, is playing a crucial role in maintaining a certain balance between the two; the Church’s dual nature – universal in scope but locally implanted – has fostered a unique conception of its relation to Cuban society, all the more so as its ambition is above all to win back a position of influence and reaffirm its central status. This ambition is furthered by two means, both of which are basically handled by secular representatives, in particular by groups associated with Dagoberto Valdès. On one hand there is a pragmatic approach based on social work and the activities of training centers; on the other an effort to rethink the role of the Church in relation to society and envisage the possibility of a new form of citizenship founded on Catholic values. The charitable initiatives are acceptable to the regime; but the same does not hold as far as the resolve to become active social participants is concerned, a move seen as a form of defense of conservative, backward-looking options. In addition relations between the Church and dissident movements are strained. This ambiguous situation might well render the role of Catholics in the post-Castrist transition more uncertain, even though the Church’s expertise will be required for national reconciliation to take place.

Renaud Egreteau

The Burmese junta that came to power in 1962, and reaffirmed its domination by a second military coup d’état in September of 1988, has steadily increased its control over the nation’s institutions and over the running of the country (renamed Myanmar in 1989). In August of 2003, the decision taken by General Khin Nyunt, Prime Minister and head of military intelligence, to propose “a road map to democracy” suggested that a gradual “transition to democracy”, closely supervised by the military regime, was possible. But the ousting of Khin Nuyunt in October 2004 spelled the return of the regime’s hardliners and of the last of the army’s nationalist chiefs, adamantly opposed to any negotiations with the democratic civilian opposition led by Aung San Suu, held under house arrest since May 2003. Thus the regime, strengthened by a favorable strategic environment, has a good chance of remaining in power by setting its own rules for “democratic” procedures, its aim being to keep the country stable rather pursuing a process of liberalization. Such a policy will inevitably be detrimental to the interests of the opposition and the ethnic minorities.

François d'Arcy

This study, which examines the chances of success of the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, takes as its starting point the idea that the main obstacle resides in the structure of the Brazilian political system. Being unable to reform that system, President Lula has skilfully adapted to it, but not without having to forge certain unusual alliances. He has, nevertheless, honoured the campaign promises which brought him to power after three unsuccessful attempts in a row, maintaining anti-inflationary policies and strict budgetary discipline, and respecting commitments given concerning public debt and privatised companies. This macroeconomic policy – which follows on from that of Fernando Henrique Cardoso – dominated his government’s first year in office, slowing the implementation of new policies addressing social issues and sustainable development. So far, the latter policies would appear to point more to continuity than to radical change, a fact which will, doubtless, contribute greatly to their success.

Matthieu Salomon

Since the 1980s – and, more symbolically, since the 6th Communist party Congress – Vietnam has been engaged in reform, which is referred to as “dôi moi”, i.e. renewal. While their aim is, first and foremost, to change the rules governing economic activity, these reforms have, since the 1990s, also been associated with political, institutional and legal change. Influenced, on the one hand, by endogenous constraints arising out of the necessary adaptation of the politico-legal environment and of the evolution of the power-legitimation processes and, on the other hand, by exogenous constraints born of the desire for integration into the international community and economy, the discourse of the Vietnamese authorities and the country’s fundamental political texts have both been modified. It seems undeniable that, despite its weightiness and areas of permanence, the Vietnamese politico-legal system is, de facto, slowly evolving and becoming “normalised”. The intention here is not to suggest that Vietnam is undergoing a “democratic transition” bringing it closer to a western model of reference. The aim of the regime may be defined thus: “to consolidate the single-party system while satisfying the demands for modernisation”. By means of an analysis of the system of people’s assemblies elected by the population and of the legal – i.e. juridical and judicial – system, this study attempts to provide an insight into the regime’s capacity for politico-legal innovation and, notably, into its capacity to structure new arenas for debate. It examines the complex evolutions which have affected the rules and players of this too-often-neglected aspect of a changing Vietnam.

The January 1997 popular protest in Bulgaria revealed how fragile representative democracy's legitimacy is likely to be in post-communist regimes. An often underlooked item in the transitologists' studies on Eastern Europe, political representation thus provides a vantage point for monitoring the process of democratic consolidation. By adopting political linkage as the conceptual focus of our investigation, we way attempt to elucidate the ways in wich the relationship between the rulers and the ruled develops and consequently unveils factors conducive to the routinisation of a democratic political relationship. The approach adopted her entails an emphasis on the social imaginaries of representation with a view to to identifying citizens' expectations about their appointees as well as the symbolic and material bases interactions between voters and representatives build upon. In a country where the differentiation of economic interests and their channeling by political parties where hampered by the slow pace of structural reforms, political linkages are not primarily grounded upon the voters' rational assessment of their preferences. Rather they tend to be rooted in social representations of politics. While being relegated into a distant sphere of corrupted and particularistic otherness, politics is nonetheless supposed to meet essentially clientelistic expectations. In a context where deputies enjoy a poor institutional legitimacy, any failure to guarantee social and ecnomic redistribution threatens the representational linkage with distruption.

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